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Large infrastructure projects are embracing BIM. Crossrail and London Underground’s Northern Line Extension have both pushed boundaries by doing so. But the scale of HS2 is of a different order.

Going places Neil Swallow

Large infrastructure projects are embracing BIM. Crossrail and London Underground’s Northern Line Extension have both pushed boundaries by doing so. But the scale of HS2 is of a different order.

HS2 has said it intends to adopt building information modelling (BIM) on “an unprecedented scale.” The company has set itself the demanding target of delivering £500M of savings with the aid of BIM and will map direct and indirect benefits in order to demonstrate this. It’s an inspiring ambition, but requires a huge cultural shift from the rail industry, which it’s fair to say is more in the position of follower than leader in the adoption of BIM technology and working practices. One thing is for sure, HS2 will take organisations to places they haven’t been before.

On HS2, BIM will deliver most benefit in complex environments where most of the capital cost is incurred. But even in open countryside – and the line visits a lot of it – there is opportunity for design innovation.

Vertical and horizontal alignments can be carefully optimised to minimise land take and cut/fill earthworks requirements. Standard solutions can be replicated across the route – or modified to meet local needs – speeding up design and cutting cost. Local requirements such as signal sight lines can be analysed and solutions refined. Construction sequences can be rehearsed.

And going into asset management, the digital model incorporating design and as-built data enables investment in maintenance and upgrades to be intelligently targeted to provide best service with least cost. Room for innovation is vital if HS2 is to realise all of the potential efficiencies offered by BIM, so it intends to specify outcomes, leaving it to the project teams to establish how best to deliver them.

There also has to be agreement and understanding of the appropriate level of detail for design, construction and handover. Ground rules have to be set and the strategy clear. But with clear planning there’s the opportunity to maximise value for the many users throughout the life of the project.

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